White Sox

Chris Sale picks up win No. 14 of year as White Sox beat Astros

Chris Sale picks up win No. 14 of year as White Sox beat Astros

HOUSTON (AP) -- Chris Sale wasn't patting himself on the back on the day he became this season's first 14-game winner.

"To be honest I probably had the least to do with this win today," Sale said.

Dioner Navarro drove in a season-high four runs, Sale settled down after a shaky start to pitch seven-plus innings and the Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros 7-6 on Saturday.

Sale (14-2) allowed four runs in the first three innings before settling in to yield just two hits and an unearned run the rest of the way. He allowed six hits and tied a season high by fanning nine.

He said the key to locking in after his early struggles on Saturday was simple.

"Just trying to pull my weight," he said. "My guys picked me up right from the start. So I felt like it was my time to give them some support back. It was a grind from the get-go. My guys pulled me out and we got ourselves a win."

He became the first AL-pitcher to get 14 wins before the All-Star break since David Wells went 15-2 in 2000.

[SHOP: Buy a Chris Sale jersey here]

Navarro drove in a pair with a triple in the second inning to put Chicago up 2-1. The White Sox were trailing in the fifth when his two-run single made it 5-4.

J.B. Shuck hit a solo homer in the fourth and had an RBI triple in Chicago's two-run eighth inning.

Rookie A.J. Reed hit his first career homer off David Robertson to make it 7-6 with two outs in the ninth before Robertson struck out Colby Rasmus for his 22nd save.

Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs for the Astros, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.

Houston starter Doug Fister (8-4) allowed nine hits and five runs while walking five in 4 2/3 innings for his second straight loss.

"He ran into a couple of things. He had a high pitch count early," manager A.J. Hinch said. "They made him work. He wasn't very sharp. The five walks hurt him and the home run."

Altuve gave Houston a 1-0 lead with his home run to the seats in right field with two outs in the first.

Chicago took the lead with Navarro's one-out triple. Avisail Garcia walked after that, but Navarro was tagged out at home on a fielder's choice before Fister retired Tim Anderson to limit the damage.

[MORE TEAM TALK: White Sox tie franchise record with 15 straight solo home runs]

The White Sox had a chance to pad their lead in the third, but Adam Eaton couldn't beat the throw home on a two-out single by Brett Lawrie. Eaton leaped over the head of catcher Evan Gattis on the play, but Gattis was still able to apply the tag.

Danny Worth drew a walk to start Houston's third before a bunt single by Jake Marisnick. Houston tied it at 2-2 when Worth scored on a sacrifice bunt by Marwin Gonzalez and took the lead on an RBI single by Altuve.

After a short coaching visit to the mound, Carlos Correa pushed the lead to 4-2 on a run-scoring single.

Sale settled down after that, retiring 13 of the next 14 batters he faced, until George Springer singled to start the eighth. Gonzalez reached on an error by Todd Frazier after that to end Sale's day.

"He just finds a way to finally find a groove," manager Robin Ventura said. "Once he got the lead you just knew he was going to be able to extend it and get through it."

Sale, who tossed a complete game against Houston on May 19, improved to 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 65 strikeouts in six career starts against the Astros.

Shuck's two-out home run to the seats in right field got Chicago within 4-3 in the fourth.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.